Happiness maximization is a WEIRD way of living

K Krys, O Kostoula, WAP van Tilburg, O Mosca, JH Lee, F Maricchiolo, A Kosiarczyk, A Kocimska-Bortnowska, C Torres, H Hitokoto, K Liew, MH Bond, VMC Lun, VL Vignoles, JM Zelenski, BW Haas, J Park, CM Vauclair, A Kwiatkowska, M RoczniewskaN Witoszek, ID Isik, N Kosakowska-Berezecka, A Domínguez-Espinosa, JC Yeung, M Górski, M Adamovic, I Albert, V Pavlopoulos, M Fülöp, D Sirlopu, A Okvitawanli, D Boer, J Teyssier, A Malyonova, A Gavreliuc, U Serdarevich, CS Akotia, L Appoh, DMA Mira, A Baltin, P Denoux, Carla Sofía Esteves, V Gamsakhurdia, RB Garoarsdóttir, DO Igbokwe, ER Igou, N Kascakova, LK Kracmárová, N Kronberger, PE Barrientos, T Mohoricc, E Murdock, NF Mustaffa, M Nader, A Nadi, Y van Osch, Z Pavlovic, IP Solcová, M Rizwan, V Romashov, E Roysamb, R Sargautyte, B Schwarz, L Selecká, HA Selim, M Stogianni, CR Sun, A Wojtczuk-Turek, C Xing, Y Uchida

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Abstract

Psychological science tends to treat subjective well-being and happiness synonymously. We start from the assumption that subjective well-being is more than being happy to ask the fundamental question: What is the ideal level of happiness? From a cross-cultural perspective, we propose that the idealization of attaining maximum levels of happiness may be especially characteristic of Western, educated, industrial, rich, and democratic (WEIRD) societies but less so for others. Searching for an explanation for why “happiness maximization” might have emerged in these societies, we turn to studies linking cultures to their eco-environmental habitat. We discuss the premise that WEIRD cultures emerged in an exceptionally benign ecological habitat (i.e., faced relatively light existential pressures compared with other regions). We review the influence of the Gulf Stream on the Northwestern European climate as a source of these comparatively benign geographical conditions. We propose that the ecological conditions in which WEIRD societies emerged afforded them a basis to endorse happiness as a value and to idealize attaining its maximum level. To provide a nomological network for happiness maximization, we also studied some of its potential side effects, namely alcohol and drug consumption and abuse and the prevalence of mania. To evaluate our hypothesis, we reanalyze data from two large-scale studies on ideal levels of personal life satisfaction—the most common operationalization of happiness in psychology—involving respondents from 61 countries. We conclude that societies whose members seek to maximize happiness tend to be characterized as WEIRD, and generalizing this across societies can prove problematic if adopted at the ideological and policy level.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages29
JournalPerspectives on Psychological Science
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024

Keywords

  • Culture
  • Happiness
  • Life satisfaction
  • Society
  • Subjective well-being

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